The year 2020 has been a trying one, to put it mildly. The pandemic has managed to change the foundations of life as we know it. Millions of lives were lost, unemployment increased manyfold and the global economy took a hit. But, as the year draws to a close, despite all trepidations and fears, the only thing to do is to hope for the best and prepare for what’s to come. As Alfred Lord Tennyson famously said, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come…”
In addition to positive news about the COVID vaccine, the job market is beginning to heal itself. It may take a while to go back to its pre-COVID state, but it is adapting to suit the requirements of a post-pandemic world.
Let’s take a look at what the trends in 2021 will look like:
One of the direct implications of the pandemic is that it has pushed digitalisation and tech into an overdrive. It has also exacerbated the digital skills gap that has existed since pre-COVID. More jobs are metamorphosing into their digital avatars and the onus is on us to keep up with the rapidly changing tech-driven world. This is not going to change any time soon. Interviews, trainings, team meetings, anything that is possible online will only be online. If you are part of or working to be a part of the digitally skilled bandwagon, doors will open up for you.
Let’s be clear here. We are not claiming that a STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths) education will guarantee employment. In fact, there is a case being made for Liberal Arts education and an increase in non-tech careers. What we predict is that all of these disciplines will become more tech-dependent.
It is established without a doubt that Artificial Intelligence is the future of tech. With a quantum leap in tech requirements, it is a logical development that organisations will clamour to employ cybersecurity and AI experts to protect valuable, profit-making data. It makes businesses easy targets for hackers who are looking to make a quick buck. Expertise in this area is the 2021 version of being in the Justice League.
The pandemic forced organisations to deal with workforce that functioned remotely. Despite it being a huge adjustment at the beginning, people have begun to see the advantages of having remote flexibility. People who are currently seeking employment opportunities now use ‘work from home’ as one of their filtering criteria. While some might argue that WFH blurs lines between work and home-life, it is a trend that will continue to exist well into 2021. Return to traditional office setups will be slow, if it happens at all. Another highly likely scenario is that of the hybrid workspace which is an average of the physical and the digital. In a 40-hour work week, you will end up spending about 20 onsite and the remaining working from home. This model comes highly recommended as it fosters a sense of camaraderie and loyalty to the organisation.
With remote work, organisations can expand their hiring net in their search for skilled workers. The main cause: People have relocated during the pandemic in order to feel safer. State or even national borders do not limit companies from hiring people. It is your skills and your internet connection that count. This means a scattered workforce that redefines traditional notions of teamwork. No doubt company loyalty and intra-office relationships will take a hit but it is a price we will have to pay for more global opportunities.
2020 was not just the year of the pandemic. The public outcry in the US again racial inequality has made most of the world reassess their positions on diversity and inclusivity of races, castes and genders. The pandemic has certainly not been easy on the marginalised. One of the important strategies in creating a favourable employer brand is your commitment to inclusivity and diversity, as it directly contributes to a more positive work ethos.
The pandemic has accelerated and solidified the role of gig and talent economy in the market. In the pre-COVID era, ‘freelancers’ were often perceived as being lower than full-time employees. That idea has taken a drastic turn. ‘Gig workers’ or the ‘agile workforce’ are now essential to any organisation. It also provides job seekers the flexibility to choose the amount and nature of work they want to do. According to a study by Forbes, over 50% of the US workforce is into gigs. The number is only going to increase. Even if you are employed with an organisation, keep your skills sharp enough to go independent whenever you choose to.
A direct impact of increased automation is the need to retrain. The definition of basic skillsets have changed. A study by Gartner in September 2020 has shown that only 16% of new hires have the skills needed for their current and future roles. Ensure that you are part of that group for better opportunities. If you are looking for a job, have clear idea of what skills the company requires in today’s new normal. Research and develop the foresight to know what will be required in your field five years hence. Never hesitate to relearn and up-skill yourself.
The impact of the pandemic is not going to disappear at the stroke of midnight. Transitions can be slow and, at times, brutal. A study published by Forbes suggests that hiring freeze might continue in the beginning of the new year and will generally be delayed. Interviews will take longer, especially since the management does not get to meet the candidate in person. We can also expect increased anxiety and early retirement decisions to deal with the long-term effects of the pandemic.
There will be an increased sense of responsibility on the management to account for the mental health of its workers. We can see more companies partnering with wellness technology companies to provide for safe, confidential spaces to deal with mental health concerns.
Many job seekers also display their prevalence for companies that contribute significantly towards making a difference in society. Corporate Social Responsibility will not be just a gimmick but a promise of accountability to its employees and the society at large. This includes paid leave, childcare and safe work spaces (both, in terms of the virus and of the vulnerable). Today’s workforce also expects its players to be open about their ideological and political stances for, it forms a major part of defining the work atmosphere.
No amount of discussion and prediction and truly capture how the pandemic has shaken the world. But what we can talk about is our resilience as we surge to acclimate to the new normal. To all of us out there trying to find our footing, keep working on your skills, keep pushing yourself and always remember, “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”